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How to Handle Tantrums for All Ages

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

“Treat a difficult child the way you would, your boss at work. Praise their achievements, ignore their tantrums and resist the urge to sit them down and explain to them how their brain is not yet fully developed.” - Robert Breault

Do you get embarrassed when you are out in public and your child is not behaving? Are you constantly receiving phone calls from your children’s school or daycare for breakdowns, tantrums, or angry outbursts? If so, it sounds as if you are looking for tools and resources for your child to behave and for you to be able to manage your child/pre-teens' outbursts. Being embarrassed by your child/pre-teen's behavior is a common difficulty that most parents experience at one stage of their child's life or another. Know that you are not alone in your child’s journey of tantrums and your pre-teen's angry outbursts.

In today’s post, we will be discussing how to manage temper tantrums and angry outbursts for both pre-teens, toddlers, and school-aged children. According to the Cleveland Clinic, a temper tantrum is defined as meaning an unplanned outburst of anger and frustration that can be physical, verbal, or both combined and are usually disruptive. According to the National Institute of Health, tantrums are common in children, 87% of 18-24 months. They are common in children 30-36 months at 91% and occur at least once a day in 20% of 2-year-olds. The study by the National Institute of Health also shares that 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds can also demonstrate tantrums at least once a day at the percentages of 18% for 3-year-olds and 10% for 4-year-olds.

So why do tantrums happen? Research shows that temper tantrums can occur for several reasons in children. Some of the reasons that temper tantrums are common in children include being tired, angry, frustrated, wanting attention, and not wanting to do something (wanting to clean up their toys). Tantrums are also common in young children due to them being unable to communicate their wants and needs effectively which can result in kicking, hitting, crying, yelling, falling out, holding their breath, and failing arms and legs. Children are also prone to tantrums due to being unable to self-soothe and develop coping strategies because of brain development in children. Pre-teens and Teens are prone to temper tantrums as well. Research shows that pre-teens and teens also exhibit temper tantrums due to demonstrating difficulty with life transitions, puberty, and feeling overwhelmed. Pre-teens and teens can also throw tantrums due to feeling misunderstood or not being listened to regarding independence and trust. For teens, the craving for independence can cause temper tantrums due to the transition into adulthood. Tantrums in teens can be shown through screaming, yelling, slamming doors, and rebellion. All in all, temper tantrums are prevalent in all age groups but can be managed and overcome in healthy ways.

Tips for Managing Tantrums in Children

  1. Self Soothe: Re-regulating a dysregulated child is not possible if you are not regulated yourself. You need to remain calm and self-soothe so that you do not essentially “join” your child’s tantrum.

  2. Distraction: Utilize a distraction such as an interesting object, your child’s favorite blanket or stuffed animal, or something interesting that would catch your child’s attention.

  3. Emotionally Coach Your Child: Voice your child's emotions. For example: "It is so frustrating to have to do something when we don't want to do it. I know, it is so hard." Also, stay present with your child during the tantrum is important for safety.

  4. Praise: After the temper tantrum praise the child for being able to calm down

  5. Model Behavior: focus on sharing your feelings and emotions and encouraging the child to identify their emotions as well to assist with improving communication to understand your child's wants and needs.

Tips for Managing Tantrums in Teens

  1. Self Soothe: Re-regulating a dysregulated teen is also not possible if you are not regulated yourself. You need to remain calm and self-soothe so that you do not make your teens' tantrums more intense.

  2. Active Listening: utilize active listening with your teen to encourage communication and safety through verbalizing feelings and emotions. Feeling understood and listened to can drastically reduce a teen tantrum.

  3. Encourage self-soothing: encourage utilizing coping and self-soothing skills to your teen to be able to effectively manage their feelings and emotions positively and appropriately.

  4. Compromise: Focus on compromising and validating your teen's feelings and emotions and come to a conclusion that is fair for both parties.

  5. Problem-solve: Focus on problem-solving skills to assist your teen with managing problems in an effective manner.

  6. Establish rules and Boundaries: establish household rules and boundaries so that your teen is aware of what is expected

To conclude, tantrums are frustrating and can oftentimes be embarrassing especially when in public. It is important to note that tantrums are common and you are not alone in your battle with managing tantrums. For more tips, please check out our other tips here (add link: You can always find us at 954-903-1676 for counseling services.

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